Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Paris 3rd Time Around - Day 11 Le Flaneur, Down by the Riverside

Paris is a city for walkers -- which is another reason why I love it so much.  Everything seems to be within walking distance.  There are back streets and alleyways that you can get lost in for hours and never notice the time.  There is just so much to see.
People who know me are aghast at how long and how far my feet can take me.  They know that I'm not a fitness freak -- I never go to the gym, I don't run or jog, neither do I take walks just for exercise.  
But when I travel, I can walk for hours -- without feeling tired at all.  Everyone else, much fitter than I, just fall by the wayside.  I have friends who refuse to travel with me as they know how much walking they will have to endure.
There is a term for someone like me in french, and it originated in Paris -- we are called "le flaneurs" or strollers -- dawdlers if you will, loiterers and wanderers.  
Charles Baudelaire, french poet and essayist, described "le flaneur" as "a person who walks the city to experience it".
Voila! Thats moi!
On this trip, I decided to walk the banks of the Seine -- I would follow the river upstream, from Pont Au Change near Cite, which is where the apartment was, to Pont d' Iena which is where the Eiffel Tower is.
I looked up the distance and sources put it between 4 and 4.5 kilometers, depending on which route I would take. 

I did this walk on the afternoon of Christmas Eve -- the weather had been mild and dry the whole day and it seemed like the perfect time to do some strolling.  
I decided that I wasn't beating the clock nor going for any records, I just wanted to take a nice long walk by the banks of the Seine -- and have the beautiful sights of Paris unfold before me.
I left the apartment at half past 3 in the afternoon -- crossing the road to reach the river banks, this traffic light was my signal to go and be a "flaneur".

With the iconic sight of Notre Dame behind me, I was off.
Isn't the light of Paris in winter just so gorgeous?  Everything seems to be cast in a soft yellow light.

Just after Pont au Change, I headed down from the sidewalk to the river banks.

Lots of gulls were making a raucous noise -- I could hear them encouraging me on!

After crossing under Pont Neuf, Paris' oldest bridge, I  climbed up back on the sidewalk just before the Passarelle des Arts -- one of 3 pedestrian only bridges that cross the Seine in Paris.  I had been here late in the evening a few nights ago and enjoyed it in a different, more romantic light.

After Passarelle des Arts comes Pont du Carousel which heads straight for the Louvre.

I cross the road and the light turns red -- I stand on the middle and take the opportunity to get a photo of the Louvre Palace.  It's Christmas Eve so there aren't too many people in the streets -- at least not on the Pont du Carousel.

A few steps away is the Pont Royal, which links the rive gauche with the rive droit.  It is the third oldest bridge in Paris.

I pass the Musee d' Orsay and for a fleeting moment, wish that I could go in and visit.
But it's Monday, it's closed, it's Christmas Eve and I am on my stroll along the Seine.
Perhaps next year?  I have always preferred the Orsay to the Louvre -- which totally overwhelms me.  The Orsay is art in a more manageable dose.

 Another pedestrian only bridge comes up and this one is the Passarelle Solferino which links the Orsay  with the Jardin des Tuileries -- another lovely park that's great for a stroll.

The Pont de la Concorde links the National Assembly with the Concorde -- and beyond that with the Eglise de la Madeleine.  We were just in the Concorde earlier in the day -- we enjoyed a spin on the Roue de Paris.  Things you do on Christmas Eve -- you take a ride on a giant ferris wheel!

After Pont au Change -- my favorite bridge in Paris because it is emblazoned with the letter "N" -- the Pont Alexandre III is my next favorite bridge.
I love the opulent, over-the-top design, the gold painted statues on top of the pillars and the lamp posts that ooze atmosphere -- so quintessentially Paris!

I pause for a bit to take a photo of this nymph riding a gigantic fish -- did he catch it in the Seine?

 The Pont Alexandre III links the Invalides with the Grand Palais and beyond that, there is the Champs Elysee.  The Invalides is a great place to visit -- aside from Napoleon's tomb, there is a fascinating war and military museum.
Plus, just behind the Invalides is the Musee Rodin -- another of my favorite museums in the city.

Pont Invalides is the lowest bridge spanning the Seine.

Pont de Alma comes up next -- I know my walk is about to end.

Just before I cross the bridge, the Eiffel Tower looms up in front of me.
I have been strolling, dawdling, loitering -- just experiencing this lovely Christmas Eve afternoon for just an hour.  I'd hate for this walk to end so soon.

The third pedestrian bridge comes up, the Passarelle Debilly -- a metal footbridge where I see several families with children taking an afternoon stroll.

All too soon, the Eiffel Tower is directly on top and my walk is about to end.  It's been such a relaxing and lovely afternoon -- how wonderful to be a "le flaneur" but to be a "le flaneur" in the city where the very word was invented is just perfect!

 The last bridge on my route comes up, the Pont d' Iena which links the Eiffel Tower with Trocadero.
I see the familiar marche noel in Trocadero and see a lot of people crossing the bridge.
It looks like most of Paris is here, at the Eiffel Tower on this Christmas eve afternoon.

Crowds walk across the bridge to the bright lights of the Christmas market. 

The traffic light turns red -- yes, it's time to stop for this "le flaneur", for the meantime at least. 
I have reached my destination -- the walk took me an hour and a half -- but I didn't even notice the time -- except to mark the change from daylight to dusk .  

I wait by the Eiffel Tower and at exactly 6 pm, the lights go on -- yellow to bathe the tower in gold and then, hundreds of twinkling, winking white lights to make it sparkle and shimmer.
It's cold, it's windy (we are by the Seine after all) but it's Christmas Eve, I'm in Paris and the Tower is putting on a show.
I have walked from the Notre Dame to here -- "le flaneur" is giddy with happiness.
Joyeux Noel mon ami!

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